Tag Archives: transition

Intro to my lower surgery

Heyo all,

So if you read my last post you caught that I recently had bottom or lower surgery. Yeah! I had a full hysterectomy with a metoidioplasty and scrotoplasty surgery without urethral lengthening or vaginectomy  July 14th, 2017 in Greenbrae California with Dr. Chen of Brownstein and Crane Surgical Services, with full coverage under my Kaiser Northwest Plan.

Kaiser NW recently brought on board two plastic/urological surgeons to Portland to start doing the surgeries, but I started the coordination process justtttt as the surgeons were getting onboarded, so I had my choice of flying to San Francisco (Brownstein/Crane) or Arizona (Meltzer) or waiting it out in Portland for the newbie surgeons to arrive (who I have since heard are fantastic both in patient treatment and technique).

I decided to go with Brownstein and Crane because I like their results and technique from what I found by looking at the tiny bit of crappy piecemeal information that exists online. I went down to California in June of 2016 (paid for in full my by insurance coverage – flights, lodging and stipend) and had my consultation with Dr. Chen and the Kaiser Transition Clinic located in Oakland, CA.

Dr. Chen was completely awesome and very friendly. He answered a lot of my questions. The Kaiser Transition Clinic meeting was a few hour-long affair of what I called ‘speed-dating.’ I met with a: social worker, two therapists, a surgeon, a gynecologist and a nurse. I think that’s everyone! It was a little over the top but it felt amazing to have so much support right at my fingertips.

I left and another agonizing 2 months went by after I got home before I received a call from Dr. Chen’s office that my surgery was scheduled for July for the following year: 13 months after my initial consultation. That’s how long the surgeon’s waitlist was.

So, I waited from August ’16 to July ’17 and at first in the beginning of the year the surgery seemed so far away, then my life got really busy and I actually had zero time to think about it and BAM. There it was. July 12th I was on a plane to San Francisco with my best friend and a giant suitcase full of shit because I had no idea what to bring (we were staying for three weeks) and in two days Dr. Chen would be rearranging my bits into something a little more manly so that I could go on with my life.



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When to ask a trans person stuff

There’s things your curious kitten self is just craving to know about trans people. Delicious little nuggets of information your little brain is just salivating over. There are things about what’s in our pants, how we think, who we fuck, that could quite possibly keep you awake at night, the possibilities are so inconceivable and fantastic.

Well, my pet, I am an advocate of knowledge and learning, so I think your questions should be answered. (That is why I blog, after all.) However, let me remind you that your intent should come from a place that is genuine and seeks to honestly strengthen your understanding and alliance with trans people. Not because you want some real-life Maury Povich shit to go down in your living room.

So I’ve created a little checklist that you should think of when it comes time for you to cash in your omgtellmetellme chips for a sip from the transgender well of knowledge.

Deciding whether or not it is a appropriate to ask a trans person something is as easy as: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.

Mix 6 parts your answers to these questions with 1 part common sense and you should get an accurate gauge of how appropriate it is to ask a trans person that burning question of yours.


…are you asking?

Is it your dear friend who came out to you last month? A transwoman in your book club who seems pretty open minded? Your transwoman friend who is a blogger and activist for trans rights? Or your transguy friend who barely acknowledges he is trans and just wants to be “one of the guys?” Are you about to ask a really interesting trans person you just met at a party? Your trans coworker?

Essentially who is this person to you, what are they all about, and how well do you know them?


…is that you are asking?

“Were you abused as a child?” is a very different question than “What is your favorite thing about being trans?” – two questions I have been asked. Have you ever been asked your question, and if so, how did it make you feel? Is what you’re asking actually any of your business?


…are you asking this question?

After amazing sex with a hot transperson? When your transfriend just got done lamenting about a breakup? At your kitchen table, over coffee and during a serious heart-to-heart? When you are drunk at a party?

Consider the emotional investment required in answering your question, and ask yourself if now is the right time. Plan for an appropriate time to ask questions on taboo or touchy subjects when the person you are asking is relaxed, emotionally sound, feels safe, etc.


…are you asking this question?

On a crowded bus? In the office at work? At dinner in front all of your friends? In the privacy of your living room? Underneath a tree at a park? Walking down a city street late at night with a couple strangers within earshot?

Consider the sensitivity of your question and who is around that might hear and make the transperson you are asking feel unsafe or uncomfortable or out them in front of others they don’t necessarily want to be out in front of.


…are you asking this?

Are you asking this you’ve scoured endlessly over the innards of the internet to find the answer to and just couldn’t come up with anything? Is this something that will genuinely make you a stronger ally, a more understanding friend or relative? Is this something that is just a personal curiosity you are dying to satisfy, and on that note, is it worth it to potentially make someone else uncomfortable to find out? My advice is to do your own homework as best as you can first and maybe discuss the question with other non-trans allies before you ask a trans person – who already has to explain a lot of stuff, all the time – to explain something to you.

and lastly…


…are you asking the question?

It might help to preface your question with a little positive encouragement and proof that you really thought about the trans person’s feelings. It softens the blow to a question that might be jarring, exhausting, negative or emotionally sensitive.

“Hey Sally, I really want to be a stronger trans ally. I have been doing some reading and I can’t seem to find a clear answer as to why some transgender women aren’t allowed in female spaces, like the Michigan Women’s Music Festival. I understand that you probably get asked questions all the time, but I feel the need to understand this concept better, so may I ask your opinion on the subject?” This is a lot different than “So why don’t they let transwomen into Michigan’s Women Festival?”

or “Hey Tom, I know I could never understand what it’s like to be in your shoes, but you are a really good friend and someone I care a lot about and I support you 100% but I read some things about negative effects of hormones and I began to worry about you. Have you heard anything about that, has your doctor said anything?”

This is a lot different than “So I hear hormones cause cancer, is that true?”

Now friends, it is time for one last lesson. When and if you should ask the motherload of all questions. The notorious BIG question…



…dun, dun, dunnn!

Every trans person has been asked this. Show me a trans person who hasn’t and I swear to you I will wear a dress for one week.

Some trans people are asked this question in more appropriate contexts than others. Most recently, one coworker who I am out to blurted this lovely little gem out right in the office, in front of another coworker who I am not out to. Please, people, for the love of God, don’t be that person.

Before asking this question, consider that you are essentially implying that a trans person must describe their genitalia to you, simply for no other reason than because they are trans. Because you perceive them as different and you, sweet, naive reader, feel you have a right to know what is in their underwear right this very moment, even as they sit across the office from you.

When was the last time you, dear reader, had a friend, coworker, relative or stranger you just met ask you to describe exactly what your private parts are like?

Would you be shocked? Embarrassed? Ashamed? Angry? Would you tell them to go fuck themselves? Or would you calmly answer their question because it just feels like you somehow owe them, and society as a whole, an explanation?

In American society is common courtesy not to pry into one’s medical history unless you are their: legal guardian and they are a minor, a doctor or a potential sex partner. This is no exception. If you are the person’s dear friend or beloved relative, then you can probably navigate the waters. But for all you other fools, perhaps approach the transgender surgery question the same way you would approach a person with a disability (and geesh if you are clueless on that too here is a great article). Yes, a person with a disability obviously has a different body than you. Are you going to bluntly ask them about it? No, because that would make you a rude asshole.

And you’re not a rude asshole, dear reader, are you?





ps. I will just tell you right now so you can get some friggin’ sleep at night that a lot of trans people have not had “the surgery.” By the way, there are lots of surgeries transpeople can have. Facial feminization, breast augmentation, tracheal shave… but I know you are talking about “the surgery” so I will just tell you that it’s expensive, for one. A vaginaplasty for transwomen (in which the penis is inverted to create a vagina) is less expensive ($10-25,000) and less prone to complications, but still unattainable for a decent majority. A phalloplasty for transmen (a surgery to create a penis via skin graft or growth harvested from another part on the body and lengthen the urethra) is really expensive (around $100,000) and can easily be prone to complication and require multiple revision surgeries. Some phalloplasty surgeries can be successfully sexually effective, but there good amount that are not. Most transmen seek first and foremost “top surgery” – the removal of the breasts and masculinzation of the chest, but that is still a costly surgery ($5-10,000) that a lot of transguys can’t afford. These surgeries are rarely covered under insurance, and incur lots of other costs that include travel and time off work.

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Trans 101: Back to Basics

The most basic of basic Trans 101.

If you feel like a Neanderthal, or a two year old, or a two year old Neanderthal when it comes to understanding transgender identities, let me just break it right on down for ya.

A transgender male is a female-born individual who identifies as male and can be anywhere on the spectrum of medically transitioned – from no medical intervention at all to completely medically transitioned, including surgery and hormone replacement therapy.

Laymans terms: I identify as dude, therefor I am.

Another way of thinking of it:

Think of transitioning in terms of geographically relocating.  Some guys are born male – these guys are the “locals,” this is who they’ve always been. Some guys “moved” here a long time ago and just fit right in, it’s as if they’ve never lived anywhere else. Some guys just moved here and are still trying to learn how to be a local. Be welcoming to the newbies, you have much more to offer them than you think.

If you have a guy friend who happens to be trans, you need not do anything other than treat him just as you would any other dude.

All of everything I just said is exactly the same for transwomen, except replace the words guy, dude, and man with chick, dudette, and woman. Ta-da.



For further consideration:

We live in a world where there are two predominantly socially-accepted genders: male and female. Think of it as Democrat and Republican. You know there are other parties out there, and chances are you don’t totally subscribe 100% to your chosen party. (And hell if you’re smart, you know it’s all just a sham anyway). Gender works similarly and there are people out there who have chosen to not conform to male or female and blaze their own path of gender identity. (Gender anarchy!!) These folks may identify as genderqueer, gender non-conforming, or they might ditch labels altogether. We won’t get too deeply into it since we don’t want to overwhelm your little toddler caveman brain, but these folks are out there and they are revolutionary and deserve equal amounts of respect.


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Meds and Food to Avoid List (from MY surgeon – check with yours)

This is a list of medications and food that I was directed to avoid by MY surgeon 2 weeks prior to my top surgery. I have no idea if this is standard practice, but you may want to prepare yourself to go off some of your medication, including antidepressants and testosterone, prior to surgery. Your surgeon will discuss this with you when you have your pre-op appointment and sign papers, etc.

Fortunately I do not take any medications regularly, so that did not affect me. However, I am vegetarian and some of the diet restrictions were really challenging and I ended up eating meat out of desperation. I joked that I was surviving on turkey sandwiches, oranges, and water.

If you have to go off antidepressants, it may be a good idea to have a trusted friend or online network available to talk if you feel depressed, or be in touch with your therapist or a maybe a drop-in (and usually free) peer counseling group if you’re not in therapy. Also, if you suffer from depression (as I do) and you have to go off your meds, it’s a good idea to have a crisis prevention number saved in your phone. Self care is sexy!

Aspirin Medications to Avoid: Affect blood clotting.

4-Way Cold Tabs

5-Aminosalicylic Acid

Acetilsalicylic Acid


Adprin-B products


Alka-Seltzer products

Amigesic Argesic-SA

Anacin products

Anexsia w/Codeine


Arthriten products

Arthritis Foundation


Arthritis Pain Formula

Arthritis Strength BC





Ascriptin products


Asprimox products



Azulfidine products


Backache Maximum

Strength Relief

Bayer Products

BC Powder

Bismatrol products

Buffered Aspirin

Bufferin products

Buffetts 11



Cama Arthritis Pain


Carisoprodol Compound



Choline Magnesium


Choline Salicylate



Cortisone Medications


Darvon Compound-65





Doan’s products





Ecotrin products

Empirin products



Excedrin products

Fiorgen PF

Fiorinal products





Goody’s Extra Strength

Headache Powders

Halfprin products


Isollyl Improved





Lortab ASA


Magnaprin products

Magnesium Salicylate




Mefenamic Acid









Motrin products



Night-Time Effervescent


Norgesic products

Norwich products


Orphengesic products

Orudis products


Pabalate products


Pain Reliever Tabs



Percodan products

Phenaphen/Codeine #3

Pink Bismuth


Propoxyphene Compound





Saleto products


Salicylate products



Scot-Tussin Original 5-




Sodium Salicylate

Sodol Compound

Soma Compound

St. Joseph Aspirin









Tussanil DH

Tussirex products




Willow Bark products


Ibuprofen Medications to Avoid 

Affect blood clotting.

Acular (opthalmic)

Advil products

Anaprox products




Dimetapp Sinus

Dristan Sinus





Indochron E-R

Indocin products










Nalfon products

Naprosyn products

Naprox X


Ocufen (opthalmic)







Sine-Aid products



Tolectin products




Avoid ALL Diet Aids – Including Over-the-Counter & Herbal 

Intensify anesthesia, serious cardiovascular effects.

Tricyclic Antidepressants to Avoid 

Intensify anesthesia, cardiovascular effects.












Etrafon products



Limbitrol products














Other Medication to Avoid: Affect blood clotting.

4-Way w/ Codeine


A-A Compound






Arthritis Bufferin

BC Tablets

Childrens Advil

Clinoril C



Dalteparin injection





Enoxaparin injection


Fragmin injection






Lovenox injection





















Tenuate Dospan







Vitamin E


Salicylate Medications, Foods & Beverages to Avoid 

Affect blood clotting.

Amigesic (salsalate)

Disalcid (salsalate)

Doan’s (magnesium


Dolobid (diflunisal)


Pamprin (Maximum Pain




Pepto-Bismol (bismuth


Salflex (salsalate)


Salsitab (salsalate)

Trilisate (choline

salicylate + magnesium








Chinese Black Beans












Vitamins and Herbs to Avoid 

Affect blood clotting, affect blood sugar, increase or decrease the strength of anesthesia, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, liver damage.  Note: Just because it is not of this list does not mean that it is safe to take while preparing for surgery.

Ackee fruit






Bitter melon

Burdock root

Carrot oil





Dandelion root

Devil’s club

Dong Quai root




Fenugreek seeds






Gingko biloba




Gotu Kola

Grape seed




Horse Chestnut


Kava Kava


Lemon verbena

Licorice root

Ma Huang



Nem seed oil





St. John’s Wort

Valerian/Valerian Root

“The natural Viagra®”

Vitamin E

Willow bark

Yellow root


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Top surgery PRE-op tips and things to consider

Hello! I had my top surgery October 26th, 2012 with the amazing Dr. Kathy Rumer of Philadelphia, Pa. I just wanted to make sure I posted some things for any ftm dudes seeking top surgery out there to consider BEFORE your surgery. These were just some things I learned along the way, so I hope it helps! Good luck! If you have any questions just leave a comment and I will get back to you! Also, if you are a post-op ftm and there is something I missed or something unique to your experience, please feel free to mention it in the comments.


Going off Meds, including testosterone and antidepressants:

I’m not sure if this is unique just to my surgeon or not, but I had a list 3 pages long of of food and medication that I had to avoid two weeks prior to surgery. You can check that list out here.

This is protocol for Dr. Rumer, but I have no idea about other surgeons. You will find out when you go to your pre-op appointment to discuss the surgery and fill out your paperwork. You just may want to be prepared to go off some medication, including testosterone and antidepressants. If you have to go off antidepressants, it may be a good idea to have a trusted friend or online network available to talk if you feel depressed, or be in touch with your therapist or a maybe a drop-in (and usually free) peer counseling group if you’re not in therapy. Also, if you suffer from depression (as I do) and you have to go off your meds, it’s a good idea to have a crisis prevention number saved in your phone. Self care is sexy!

Fortunately I do not take any medications regularly, so that did not affect me. However, I am vegetarian and some of the vegetable diet restrictions were really challenging (garlic and onions?! really?!) and I ended up eating meat out of desperation. I joked that I was surviving on turkey sandwiches, oranges, and water.


If you saved up all your pennies or Grandma finally kicked the bucket and you have enough money for your surgery, unfortunately you can’t just stroll into your surgeon’s office, throw the dough on the table and say “Take me, I’m ready!” Even if your surgeon (and the surgery center they operate out of) has a crystal clear calendar, you will have to get blood work, a physical, and your surgeon may want you to restrict your diet and medications for up to two weeks before your surgery. I was financially, spiritually, physically, mentally and socially/work ready for my surgery the second week of September, and with all the pre-op work and scheduling and I had to do, the earliest my surgery could be done was October 26th.


You might get a quote from your surgeon that the price of your surgery is say, $7,000. Make sure you have at least a couple hundred dollars beyond that for anything else you might need. If you write your surgeon a check for $7,000 and you have $5 left in your bank account, that’s bad news. Here are some things I didn’t expect to have to pay for, and some things that I even expected and want to share with you.

Breast Cancer Screening/Lab

My cost: $500 (?)

My surgeon (and I feel like this is probably universal) required my breast tissue to be sent out to Quest diagnostics to be tested for breast cancer. If you have insurance, your insurance will cover this (although you may have to navigate complications if you are listed as male on your insurance but I’m not sure). Since I don’t have insurance, I have to pay out of pocket. Nobody could actually give me an exact quote for this. My surgeon guessed that it was around $500. I am being billed from Quest and am actually still waiting for the bill to come in the mail. I will update this post when I find out how much it actually costs.

Pre-op Blood Work

My cost: approx $100 through a low-cost lab called Any Lab Test Now Philly.

Any surgeon worth their scalpel is going to make you get blood work done before your surgery. This is to make sure you are healthy enough for surgery and to see what your blood type and clotting factors are. I had to get a full metabolic profile done and a urinalysis. As a low income person in Philadelphia I have access to amazing free health care through the city, however only some of the testing I needed could be done for free. My pre-op blood work ended up costing me around $100 through a low-cost lab called Any Lab Test Now Philly.

Your surgeon might automatically recommend a lab, like Quest for example. Or perhaps they suggest that you get the blood work done through your primary care provider. However, I would ask them if, to better fit your budget concerns, it was OK for you to “shop around.” Better yet, I would do your shopping beforehand and go into your pre-op appointment knowing exactly which lab you want to use. The tests are exactly the same, and any lab is simply just going to fax the results anyhow, so what lab you use should be, under general circumstances (assuming you are healthy and excluding special health risks and concerns) irrelevant. The only difference between one lab and another sometimes is price. My advice would be to do an online search for low cost blood work or labs. Even if you have to travel, it might still save you some money.

Pre-op Physical

My cost: free

Again, any surgeon worth their sutures is going to make you get a cleared by a doctor with a physical prior to surgery. You may just go to your family doctor for this. Now, this won’t work for everyone, but if you live in or near a big city you might be able to follow my example.

I would have paid a $35 copay for my physical if I would have gone through my primary care office. Instead, I went to an open LGBT community health night that was free and you could get seen on a walk-in basis. I got just a good of a physical and care had I gone to my primary care, got my paper signed, and it was free!

(Philly folks: I went to the Washington West Project Community Health Night, held every first and third Friday of the month from 6-9pm at the Washington West building, 12th and Locust. Look up Washington West Project on Facebook for the info).


My cost: Approx $95 for two antibiotics, Percocet and Tylenol PM.

If your surgeon isn’t a masochist, they will prescribe you pain pills and antibiotic to stave off infection. I was prescribed percocet for pain and Keflax as antibiotic, which cost me $40. I picked up some tylenol PM to help with sleeping at night, since your first week post-op you can only sleep sitting up and it’s hella uncomfortable. Then, on my fourth day post-op the Keflax made me sick with nausea and a low-grade fever and my Dr. had to call in a script for a less intense version of Keflax called Cefadroxil, which cost me $27.

Anesthesia and Surgery Center Costs

My cost: $2000

My surgeon built these costs into the initial price she quoted me, but make sure you ask your surgeon if these are included in the price they quote you. It would really rain on your parade to find out after the fact that you still owe a few grand. Also, note that anesthesia is paid by the half hour that you are under it. I only paid for two and a half hours of anesthesia (my surgeon said that 2 1/2 hours is the common time it takes for top surgery), but if your surgery is complicated you may end up paying more. It might also be a good idea to ask if you will be billed if your surgeon goes beyond the amount that you initially paid for.

Other pre-op needs

There are other miscellaneous things to consider into your budgeting. I spent about $70 on surgery groceries: juice, soup, snacks, etc. Also consider transportation to and from appointments, travel and lodging if you aren’t local, supplies like gauze or surgical binders (I spent about $20 on nonstick pads for my nipples and I also needed neosporin but I had some at home already). We bought new pillows because I could only sleep propped up for the first week and our pillows were old and worn out. Your first week post-op you can only wear button-down shirts because you can’t lift your arms to pull a shirt over your head, so I spent an extra $10 on two whacky hawaiian shirts because I thought it would cheer me up. Other friends of mine borrowed button-down shirts from friends. You may spend extra money on renting movies or a Netflix subscription (I borrowed from the library). The list could go on, but the point is to just have a little extra put back for the things that will make your recovery smoother and happier.

Emergency Needs

Believe it or not, my partner and I actually did incur some emergency costs because Hurricane Sandy hit when I was 3 days post-op and we had to buy water, batteries, etc. just to be safe. It was a blessing that my apartment had no damage and we didn’t lost heat or electric, but some people in my neighborhood did. If we lost heat and electric we would have been in a world of trouble. We don’t own a car, so we might have had to rent a car or gotten a ride to a friend’s or a hotel. Also, what if you have to visit the ER? I’m not saying that you should take out a thousand dollar loan or something “just in case,” but you should have a plan. Make sure you have a credit card or that your partner or mom or someone close can afford to loan you the money if you need it up front. One time I got a concussion and went to the ER and incured a $3000 bill, which was paid for 100% through the hospital’s charity care program for low-income individuals. If you have the time, it might be wise to just do some research of what hospitals in your area provide these kind of services. You could call billing and most likely easily find out in one phone call.

There are also a lot of ways to cut down some of these costs. Discount food stores like Save-A-Lot, thrift stores, house-sitting, swapping or room renting or subletting if you’re traveling for surgery, community health initiatives, borrowing, libraries, and pre-op party with a wish list are just a few. If you have relatives or friends who didn’t donate to your surgery fund because they either couldn’t afford it or didn’t think you’d go through with it, maybe they could donate supplies or money toward medication.

It’s been my experience that a little patience and creativity can go a long, long way! Also, if you’re getting bummed about spending all this money on surgery, think of it as an investment rather than a cost. You are investing in your comfort, happiness, and lifelong dream!

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What is binding? It is using something – a tight shirt, a specially-fitted garment, an ace bandage (dangerous though, do not use that) – to compress and flatten your breasts to give yourself a flat, masculine-appearing chest.

A lot of transmen have disdain or at least discomfort surrounding their breasts. Breasts are a secondary sex characteristic – just like widened hips and menstruation for women and deeper voice, facial hair, and muscles for men – that is developed by your body during puberty to prepare you for child rearing and make you more recognizable as the male or female biology that you were born as. Children who haven’t gone through puberty often are very gender-neutral looking because they lack these secondary sex characteristics.

Because the world can easily recognize and assume that a person with breasts, softer curves and a higher-pitched voice is a woman, transpeople are often pressured to try and disguise most of these aspects until we are ready for and can afford surgery and/or hormone therapy treatment. One aspect of that disguising is trying to erase the appearance of our breasts by binding. The end goal is to look simply flat-chested.

Not every transman binds. Some transmen bind every day. Some transmen bind occasionally, for job interviews and professional appearances. Some transmen can’t go get the mail without binding. It all rests on one’s personal level of comfort. I even know transmen who could give a shit less about what people think and refuse to bind. There are many varying degrees all over the spectrum.

I personally bind every day. I can go get the mail without a binder on, but I hate doing it. I won’t go get coffee or run to the drug store across the street without my binder on. I bind when we have guests over, even if they are dear friends.

My binding has been an evolution. At first, when I was still identifying as female with a lot of question and gender issues, I refused to bind. My breasts always get extremely tender and sore during my lovely menstrual cycle, and I couldn’t imagine binding. It seemed so painful.

After I started coming out more as trans, I started binding when I gave transgender lectures or when I performed, or when I went out to a bar or to dinner. At the time I was using an ace bandage: bad move. To try and get my chest flat, I would wrap it entirely too tight. I could barely breathe. Performing was the worst because my heart would race since I was nervous and I could feel that it was under stress and pressure due to the huge force of compression that I was subjecting it to. At times I felt I was going to pass out right on stage. There is one picture taken of me performing in which my face is literally purple.

However, at that time I was poor and uneducated and desperate to look closer to who I imagined myself as. Those circumstances put me in serious danger – probably more serious than I even realize.

I next switched to an abdominal binder that I would use to wrap around my chest. It was meant to apply compression to the stomachs/abdominal areas of patients who had just had some kind of stomach abdominal surgery. This was also made by Ace, but it was less constricting. It was more expensive though – about $40. However, a small price to pay for the luxury of being able to breathe and not feeling like I was going to die, but the binder looked awkward under my shirt. It was basically a big, stretchy band about 7 inches across that I wrapped over my breasts then velcroed. It never velcroed evenly, and the velcro always scratched me. The velcro never layed flat and there was always this one weird, pointy edge sticking up right underneath my left breast. I was constantly self-conscious about it used to always hold my arm in front of it so nobody could see the little piece poking through my shirt. Whenever I wrote tighter shirts, you could sort of see the band across my chest, so I stopped wearing a third of the clothes that I had in my closet.

When I got a new, physically demanding job I could no longer keep my posture hunched inward and my arm in front of the pointy piece, so I eventually chalked up the $60 for a professional binder from the company Underworks. (http://ftm.underworks.com). The binders from this company are the only binders I recommend. It is the safest and most comfortable. They are actually a company that makes surgical chest compression binders for post-operative cismale patients (cis meaning men who were born men and stayed that way: check the glossary page if you’re having a hard time keeping up with terms!). They found out that a lot of transmen started using their binders as a means to flatten their chests until they could afford chest surgery, and they started selling and advertising them directly to transmen.

I’ve had the binder a few months and it’s definitely a welcome change from my last two binder experiments.

This is the Underworks binder: it actually kind f just looks like a tank top or undershirt.

This is the end product: a really flat chest under my t-shirt.

Here is a video about my binder:

Binding is a necessary step for me. It helps me feel more like I have the body that I’m supposed to have, and it makes me appear more male in society. It’s not easy though, and not fun. Binding is painful. Although my breathing isn’t restricted (anymore), my muscles are, especially those in my back. The binder holds my body in the same posture all day. There have been times when the single only thought that filled my mind was the moment I could go home and tear my binder off and stretch my back muscles out. At the end of a double shift at work when I am standing and moving all day long, my spine sometimes feels like it is going to snap in half since I haven’t been able to stretch it for hours. I also wear it every single day, and I have very sensitive skin, so I’ve developed acne all over my back (so hot, right?). I also shudder to think what compression and probably restricted blood flow is doing to my breast tissue. The hardest thing to know is that until I can afford the $7,000 chest masculinzation procedure – that most insurance companies won’t pay for because they view it as “cosmetic” surgery – I have to make a choice of whether or not I want to do serious harm to my mental health (not wear it) or physical health (wear it).

Sometimes I dream about my binder. I had a nightmare last February while I was camping in a cabin with my Fiancee and friend. In the dream, I awoke in the cabin and went to the kitchen where I got some plastic wrap. I began wrapping my chest with it over my pajamas and started putting random things against my chest and wrapping them tight to me. I realized the wrap was too tight and I started to have a seizure and I thought I was dying. I woke in the middle of this but was still too sleepy to differentiate between wakefulness and dreaming. I went back to sleep but awoke later feeling extremely anxious. Later in the day I had a severe panic attack.

Just yesterday I also dreamed that that I was wearing my underworks binder. Sometimes, with certain shirts, the binder makes my chest look large and puffed out. In my dream I saw myself in a picture, and my chest was hugely puffed out and distorted. In the dream, I thought I looked like a monster.

If what I’ve said has troubled you, there is something you can do. Part of the reason transmen bind is because our appearance of breasts in society is automatic “female” label. Sometimes we even slap that label on ourselves when we don’t have our binders. Next time you see a person with breasts who you’re not sure how they identify, don’t automatically assume they are female. Also, if you have a loved one who you know binds, gently remind them that you will still see them for who they are even if they aren’t binding (don’t be pushy and insistent about it though, some transmen are just too uncomfortable to take their binders off). Even if seeing the outline of their breasts as opposed to a flat chest is a bigger mental stumbling block to seeing them as male, try really hard.  Think man boobs – you know, that 400 lb dude at the beach who should really be wearing a bikini top. Being reassuring. Be on your A-game with pronouns. Make it seem like it’s not a big deal at all and it doesn’t change who they are and how they identify. Because it really doesn’t, only society tells us that it does.




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Bon voyage girl stuff!

Recently I got rid of the very last of my girl stuff. This was really just some underwear and bras. It took me a long time to finally get rid of it all, even though I hadn’t worn it for probably a year or more. I think it was more a hang-up over the bras, because I still do have breasts so there was this fear lurking somewhere inside me that I would need them for something. I don’t know what, though. I will confess that I did keep one, just in case. I can’t completely banish that fear. Maybe I’m just hoarding sports bras. Oh, who knows. It’s been interesting – my little departures from my life as female. I think we’re all a little resistant in some ways to certain changes, even if we know they’re exciting and good for us.

Although it’s hard to not physically look male in really any ways and to get called the wrong pronoun all the time (called “she” instead of my preferred pronoun, “he”), I am trying to find value in the space that I am in right now. There is something really special about that space, that gap in time when you are poised between the person you were and the person you are becoming. The Buddhists think that this is the only way you can live happily: exactly where you are in the moment. Maybe they’re right?



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Old Journal Entry #6

When I first started questioning my gender identity, I found a community of transmen on this online diary website called Live Journal. I was floundering so much for a sense of community and I was so excited to find them, but it actually turned out to be a disaster for a lot of reasons that I won’t go into. However, I have found a great community here in my city of Philly, so I’m happy now and that’s all that counts. But I’ve decided to share with you some of my journal entries from the early days of my gender questioning.

Sixth Journal Issue:

February 19th, 2011

Wow, here I am nearly a year later since my last post.

Whew! Ummm… hehhh…yeahhhh…..

I have a good excuse though! Beginning in April (a month after I posted my last entry), 2010 officially became the worst year of my life.

My dad had a massive heart attack and almost died, I’ve been unemployed, I had a really fucked up job thing happen at the end of December, and not that it’s a bad thing, but I’ve been going through this transition process which has just been really hard. So yeah.

I think I mentioned in my last post that my transition is moving along at a snails pace… well, it still is! I kinda went nuts for a little bit and read all these books about gender — 14 in total I believe — and was just totally freaked out.

I don’t know about you, but I’m the kind of person who analyzes EVERYTHING. To death. Beyond death. I’m in the afterlife chasing thoughts down and analyzing them some more.

The transition thing kind of blew my mind I think. Something I think that was happening was I was kind of having a quarter-life crisis. I think my transition was compounding the slap-in-the face that being an adult, college graduate in a shitty economy was. I started freaking out over kind of “killing off” my teenage self – this wild, mischievous girl named Raeann who everyone loved and was always doing something crazy. I think the truth is, transition or not, I’m simply not that person anymore. But it’s kind of freaky to not be the person you once were, and to be a person of a completely different gender at the same time. It’s a bit of a mindfuck, if you will.

Another thing that I was having a hard time with was not feel “trans enough.” I kept meeting all these trans guys who have had chest surgery, have been on T for years, are solidly male-identified and that’s just not me! In the major city where I live, at least lately, I haven’t felt very welcomed by some members of the community. There are other genderqueer people out there that I’ve yet to meet. I am going to be in a show next month with a lot of genderqueer people so hopefully I can meet some new people.

I kinda used to go nuts wondering who I should be, and I spent a better part of a year basing my identity off everyone around me – my partner, family, friends, those other trans guys, even strangers on the street and in the subway. Everyone except myself.

But lately I don’t give a shit! I just stopped caring. I have no idea why, when, or how, but I did. I am just myself. I have no gender; I have all genders at once. It makes no sense so why worry about it anymore?

It’s been very liberating. I do kind of feel trapped and feel I need to act a certain way sometimes in public, but for the most part I’m working hard to ignore those pressures and trying to have pride in my mixmatched, mixed up self.

I think a lot of me coming to this realization came along with my discovery of Buddhism, which is all about loving and accepting yourself for who you are. Also, being in the Buddhist community in a very queer-friendly major city, I feel that I am not being judged.

I’ve been using meditation (although as of very recently I must admit I’ve been slacking) and just trying to clear the clutter in my brain. This is the first time since I began experiencing severe depression 12 years ago that I have just stopped and tried to breathe and clear my head.

I’ve been mentally sick for such a long time that it’s been hard being a somewhat well person. It’s as if I’ve been programmed to self-destruct myself. I think I am a very self-destructive person, and it’s been kind of hard to overcome that. How does a negative, pessimistic person who is chronically depressed turn into a positive, optimistic person who rolls with the punches? It’s a transition in itself! I’ve been working hard at breathing, experiencing the world “as is,” recognizing that bad things will happen but I ultimately chose my own level of suffering, and basically I chose my own level of happiness. These things are coming together at a snails pace as well…but slow and steady wins the race, right?

In terms of the transition process, I haven’t made any physical changes yet. I do have my heart set on chest surgery, and am working getting the funds together for that. Would love to have it done in a few months.

The jury is still out on hormones for me. They don’t seem that crucial to my process of transition, but I may change my mind later? Who knows. For now, not something I’m concerning myself with.

I’m binding more and more. When I’m not using a wrap, I use an undershirt and tuck it in realllyyyy tight so it kind of flattens my chest. Both are super uncomfortable and I hate doing it, but I love having a flat chest so I bite the bullet sometimes.

The biggest thing to change is that I came out to my mom about a month ago. She actually handled it AMAZINGLY. She was basically just like I love you no matter what, you gotta be happy, etc. It was a dream coming out moment! I know there is a lot of hard roads ahead and a lot of things she may not realize (that she is going to have to stop calling me Raeann, for example) but I think she knew this was coming and had prepared herself for it. She didn’t even cry! Wtf?! lol

I am very, very, very soon going to be asking my friends to refer to me with male pronouns. I don’t think this will be a big deal. It might be hard with my friends from home who have known me as “she” for my whole life, but I know they love me and want me to be happy, and I we can keep an open communication flow going.

I guess my advice to anyone who might be reading this blog is to be COMPASSIONATE toward your family and friends. This process is going to hurt them, you cannot avoid that. It is how you handle the hurt that will determine the outcome of your relationship. You are of course entitled to protect yourself emotionally, but don’t alienate yourself and don’t let the guilt consume you.

In fact, don’t feel guilty. Just be there for them, be compassionate, be loving and be steadfast in your decision and confidently guide them to what you need from them so they are assured this is what you need and is going to make you happy. If they love you, they will get over it. And if they can’t get over it (in a reasonable amount of time) then sadly it’s time to move on.

I got this fortune cookie a while back that really helped me, it said:

“You can judge the true character of a man by how he does for those who do nothing for him.”

I think that’s something worth keeping in mind!

Anyway, until next year! haha I hope not… but until next time!

Peace and Love

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Old Journal Entry #5

When I first started questioning my gender identity, I found a community of transmen on this online diary website called Live Journal. I was floundering so much for a sense of community and I was so excited to find them, but it actually turned out to be a disaster for a lot of reasons that I won’t go into. However, I have found a great community here in my city of Philly, so I’m happy now and that’s all that counts. But I’ve decided to share with you some of my journal entries from the early days of my gender questioning.

Fifth Journal Issue:

March 22nd, 2010

The last post that I wrote was about being partnered with someone and going through the transition. That’s probably been the hardest part, since my gf started dating me when I identified as lesbian (as she is a lesbian). She is doing a LOT better and she started going to a local support group (in philly – contact me if your s/o is interested) and I hope that helps some too. She’s very scared that our relationship dynamics will change and move out of her comfort zone, though I keep trying to reassure her that I’m sure that things will only get better. I think mostly we are just trying to take everything one day at time.

I’ve still only come out to just two people, although I’m ready and would like to come out to more. It’s just so hard to say it! Even though I can be really outgoing, I tend to get really nervous sometimes and I’ve been so nervous to tell some friends. I also am having a hard time find the right opportunity. “So, what did you think of that movie? Oh yeah, it was great. Oh by the way — I’m trans!” I’m sure a lot of my friends probably suspect it, and would be totally cool with it, but still. I’m thinking of just saying “fuck it” and writing a damn email already. That’s the only way I can think of to say it, because when I try in person, nothing comes out.

I’m also nervous because I just had a job interview earlier today that I actually think I may have a really good chance at getting. The only thing is that it’s at the college I graduated from, the department that I worked in as a student worker. Now I’d be transitioning on the job with a bunch of people who have known me for six years as a woman. The college I went to is an art school and everyone is really open-minded, but it just seems like a really good opportunity at sort of an odd time. We’ll see, I might not even get the job!

Other than that, I’m excited that summer is coming and that I can have a fundraiser or two at my studio space to earn the $$ to chop off the boobies. Or maybe maybe if I get the job, my health care would somehow cover it (doubtttt ittt). Either way, I’m getting excited that hopefully in about a year or so chest surgery may be a reality. I can’t wait!

I did bind my breasts recently for the first time, which was something I never thought I’d do. My boobs are pretty big and they hurt a lot, so I really had no interest in it. But, I tried it, and I actually liked it a lot. It was kind of hard to breathe, which I didn’t like at all, but it finally did feel nice to be somewhat flat-chested.

As I said earlier, I think I’m just taking things one day at a time. The transition process is coming along at a snail speed, but I keep trying to tell myself that I will get there eventually. I have noticed that since I came out to some friends and have been able to be more open with my girlfriend, my depression sharply decreased and my motivation and overall well-being have been way up. I think this is also because I’m not working and have been able to eat really well and exercise (and not be stuck all day at a job that I hate) and I’m currently spending my time working on a project I’m very passionate about (which I will write about soon, I promise). It will be interesting to see how these things fluctuate once I start working and my day is mainly devoted to a job that I don’t love (although if I get this job, I will really like it a lot). I realize that the transition won’t ever solve all my problems (ESPECIALLY not my money ones, lol), but being able to be my true self has lifted my spirits tremendously. In the past four months, I’ve only been mildly depressed twice, just for like two days at a time. Usually in that time I’d experience severe depression with suicidal thoughts probably at least twice, for at least up to two weeks at a time. Sometimes I’ve experienced severe depression with suicidal thoughts for up to a month!

I hate to be cliche, but prior to come out, it’s very scary to think about but my will to live was plummeting. I really hope that my depression will continue to stay on a mild, manageable level from now on and even if it occasionally slips into the despairing level, I will be much better equipped to handle it because it won’t feel like I’m in a constant mental battle to survive. As I said, I’m very curious to see what having a job and being out (at least to friends and maybe family at first) will do for my mental health. If I begin to get severely depressed again from working, I think it may be time to explore that issue and to get a psychiatrist’s opinion on just how disabling my depression is. Currently, where I’m at now, I feel like I can manage pretty well, but we will see.

Anyhooha, that’s about all! I hope everyone is doing well and trying their hardest to be their true selves, whoever that may be, and working towards making themselves a better person altogether!

Peace and love

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